Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lily's Crossing

Lily's Crossing (Yearling Newbery) Lily's Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
My daughter picked this book for our parent/child book assignment for her 5th grade class. It's a delightful youth book, full of details about what it was like in America during WWII. Lily is a wonderfully complicated girl who learns a lot about courage, redemption, and gratitude the summer her father joins the Army and she meets a refugee from Hungary. It's a simple, sweet story but I admit I was hooked enough to read most of it in one sitting, and cried at the end.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Heat wave

Heat Wave Heat Wave by Richard Castle


My rating: 3 of 5 stars
If you love the show...you'll either love the book or feel like you're reading a rerun. At times I loved how you would read something that happened on the show, slightly altered, like how a real author would reshape what happened in real life and use it in a novel, because I felt like it was a *private* joke. Other times it bored me, like I'd already experienced it on the show, give me something new. But it was a fun book overall--(though maybe not as good as some episodes). If we learn anything in this book--Castle and Beckett should NOT get together. In the book "Jameson Rook" hooks up with "Nikki Heat", and after that the heat sort of fizzles.

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Mormon Scientist

Mormon Scientist: The Life and Faith of Henry Eyring Mormon Scientist: The Life and Faith of Henry Eyring by Henry J. Eyring


My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This was less of a biography than a memoir about Henry Eyring. It's written by his grandson and so is treated with less objective observation than a real biography would be. In fact, in some ways it was more of a religion book than a biography book at all. The author presents an ideal and then explains why Eyring exemplifies it. It made for an interesting format but one that repeated ALOT of experiences and quotes, which I think, ultimately was a disservice to Eyring's life by making it seem there was less to tell than there was.
Still, Eyring's life was pretty extraordinary and his example of someone who was able to balance career and religion, science and faith was inspiring. While I think most Mormons today can reconcile evolution with divine creation, perhaps that is because Eyring's bold take on it back when it was a national debate.
All in all, I liked the book, enjoyed the stories about Henry--I just wish the author would have let the life speak for itself.

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Too Much Happiness

Too Much Happiness: Stories Too Much Happiness: Stories by Alice Munro


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I felt like Goldilocks reading this book. It wasn't too obtuse, it wasn't too banal, it was just right. Munro does a great job of delving into her characters, and creating a world for them in just a few sentences. She does a great job of forshadowing just enough that you know what's going to happen without you consciously *knowing*. And most of the time, the plot builds to a satisfying end with just enough intrigue to mull over later. Interestingly, the only story I didn't love was the title story "Too Much Happiness" which was actually based on a real person. While terribly interesting, I didn't feel connected to the main character like I did with her other "fictional" characters in the other stories. It seemed that in Munro's eagerness to showcase an amazing woman and get in all the facts, she forgot to let us peek in under the surface. The rest of the stories are excellent.

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Close Calls with Nonsense

Close Calls with Nonsense: Reading New Poetry Close Calls with Nonsense: Reading New Poetry by Stephen Burt


My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I thought that this was a book to help the average reader understand newer poetry. Aside from three essays, this is more of a collection of critical pieces *about* modern poetry writers, and it is clearly not for average readers, but for real afficionados of poetry. For one thing, I would never want to play Scrabble with Burt--his vocabulary is astounding--and while I will admit that once I looked the words up on dictionary.com they were exactly the right word to make his point--many times I had to look up too many words to understand his point--"portmanteau word" , "mingling plagency", "phenomenological inquires"... maybe these are household words for poets and poetic students, but not me. In conjunction with the big vocabulary, his points were so dense and rapid at times, that I was continually having to read paragraphs 2 or 3 times to understand his point. And while describing one poet, he would refernce their work with a nod to another poet, whom I also didn't know.
That aside, I will have to say that as a *textbook* this was very informative. I learned a lot of poetic verbage such as what a "sestina" or a "pantoum" is (although, it's not because Burt explains it, it's because I had to look it up) and I was introduced to a lot of names in poetry I hadn't heard before and he included enough of their poetry to help me decide whether I wanted to read more of their work.
It took me about 2 months to wade through this book, but I look at it like I took a home study course on modern poets. Still, I think this was more of a 500 or graduate level course, and I could've used a poetry 101 or at least 200 first to really appreciate it.

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